There are several questionable farm systems in baseball, but the Chicago White Sox are certainly one that stands out. For years now, the Sox have maintained a firm MLB-first approach to player personnel. They’re a principled franchise that would rather allocate its baseball operations budget toward free agent signings and MLB extensions than toward draft spending. And when they do stumble upon a real-deal prospect, they usually like to trade him for a veteran dude, someone to help that playoff push. It’s a model that occasionally works — they won a World Series by it in 2005 — but it’s not one that’s built to sustain success. And now, in 2013, the White Sox are awful. They’re in total rebuild mode — everything is for sale. This is finally their opportunity to change direction, to try to build a system that cultivates and utilizes impact talent. They’ve already dealt Matt Thornton to Boston for Brandon Jacobs, an upside outfielder with a skill set that might be very useful in the fantasy game. Don’t stop there, Chicago. Tear it all down.
Marcus Stroman | RHP, Blue Jays – I mentioned Stroman here last week after his 13 whiff, 1 walk performance. He followed up that outing with 8 K’s and zero free passes in his most recent start. He’s undersized as a SP, but his stuff is explosive and his huge strikeout potential makes him a very intriguing fantasy prospect. He starts again today for New Hampshire.
Kyle Zimmer | RHP, Royals — Equally impressive as Stroman’s recent work is Kyle Zimmer’s. The 5th overall pick last June got off to a slow start at High-A Wilmington, but he’s been utterly dominant over his past two starts, posting a 20/0 K/BB during that stretch. The 21-year-old features a FILTHY fastball-curve combo.
Manny Ramirez | OF, Rangers – Manny has two homers in six games at Triple-A Round Rock. The youngster has some fantasy appeal, but it remains a mystery as to whether or not the Rangers are comfortable starting his service time clock.
Avisail Garcia | OF, Tigers – I’ve always been a fan of Garcia and it was frustrating to watch him waste valuable development time on Detroit’s big club bench. It’s a relief to see the 22-year-old back getting regular PA’s at Triple-A Toledo, where he’s hitting .430/.444/.633 through 18 games. It’s also probably worth noting that he hit for the cycle this past Sunday. He’s not as polished as Nick Castellanos, but his fantasy ceiling is higher.
Mark Appel | RHP, Astros – The #1 overall pick had 5 K’s in 3 IP in his second pro start. Houston has since promoted him to Low-A Quad Cities, where he’ll get his first taste of full-season baseball.
George Springer | OF, Astros – George Springer is good. This we know. But he’s been crazy good of recent, batting .444/.524/.944 with 5 homers through his last 10 games at Triple-A Oklahoma City. I’m still thinking he’ll get the Wil Myers treatment and we won’t see him in Houston till next June, but there’s little doubt at this point that he’s ready to contribute now.
Chris Owings | SS, D’Backs – Didi Gregorius’s production continues to decline. Meanwhile, Chris Owings is batting .353 and doing things like hitting 3 homers in one game at Triple-A Reno. He certainly could join the Diamondbacks before long.
Xander Bogaerts | SS, Red Sox – Bogaerts continues his improved power production at the Triple-A level, knocking three more homers in his last six games. He now has more HR at Triple-A Pawtucket (7) than he had at Double-A Portland (6), and he’s done so in fewer than half the plate appearances.
Francisco Lindor | SS, Indians – Cleveland will promote Lindor to Double-A following today’s Futures Game. The 19-year-old just might be the best defensive prospect in the game, and he’s shown good speed and decent hitting ability this season. More on him here.
Wilmer Flores | 3B, Mets – When news broke this off-season that the Mets were moving their Triple-A affiliate to Las Vegas, my first thought was of the mouthwatering numbers that Wilmer Flores would produce. Vegas is perhaps the best launching pad in Minor League Baseball, but to this point, Flores’s power figures haven’t quite lived up to my lofty expectations. Still, he’s batting .322 on the year and his ISO is north of .200. On top of that, he’s spending most of his time on the field at second base. There’s no impending call-up, but I can’t help but fantasize about slotting the 21-year-old at MI on one or two of my fantasy rosters.